Vaan walks through Balfonheim aerodrome, purposeful. From the discontented mumble, the staff in his wake are shocked at his presence.
The streets are comfortably busy. Smoke from industry clouds the sky. Vaan stops at an open garage, looking puzzled, until an old woman tells him off for disrupting the traffic. Vaan apologises, unconcerned. He checks a scrap of paper confirming the address and enters.
The garage is empty but clean, well used. The long wall bears a tidy rack of tools. Vaan examines the display. Many tools are of unusual composition.
Vaan's puzzled expression eases. He nods to himself.
Balthier and Fran step through a door, which swings closed on a tiny kitchen. Balthier is wiping grease from his hands. Surprised to see Vaan, he drops the rag.
'Look who finally crawled home.'
Pleased, Vaan and Balthier shake hands, then Vaan and Fran. Balthier disappears into the kitchen and returns c radling three dripping beers. Fran opens them barehanded, giving Vaan his first.
'Wow. Never thought you two would even choke on something this cheap.'
Balthier's smile fades.
'Take it easy, boss, I'm joking!'
Discomforted, Vaan drinks deeply.
'We've rediscovered pragmatism as a way of life,' Balthier says.
Behind the garage, Balthier, Fran and Vaan stand in a narrow alleyway. A spiral stair rises to an apartment, window pots growing ferns. They look at a partly-built contraption. Vaan toes a greasy chain coiled by the tire.
'So that's a motorbike, huh?'
'Combustion proves a viable substitute,' Fran says.
Vaan groans. 'Listen, this is great, but I'm looking for help, not substitutes. I want to rebuild the Galbana...'
Delicate, Balthier puts his beer bottle on the ground. The other two watch as he climbs the stair to the apartment, and closes the door.
A moment later, the shutters slam.
Fran looks at Vaan. 'Moogles still fly. Ask them.'
'Except they're not prone to sharing secrets.'
'They do trade. I'll bet Nono owes you still, for Jylland.'
Lips pursed, Vaan nods. 'At least you haven't lost it. Aw, Fran, talk Balthier into coming, will you? You two add a lot of clout.'
Fran hesitates. 'Balthier's not good with disappointment.'
'So what? What's the alternative, surrender?'
'Birdshit. The Rozarrians gave that up for a bad job centuries ago. Why try again now?'
Fran holds out her hand. Surprised, Vaan pauses before taking it.
'The Mist cannot be trusted,' Fran says. 'Farewell.'
Nono celebrates Yearsend in an Ambervale bar, all heavy wood and low ceiling beams. The lanterns hang at Vaan's eye level, the oil adding to the smoke. Vaan navigates carefully to avoid collisions. He is the only Hume in the bar.
Reaching Nono's table, he squats to join the four Moogles. The conversation stops.
Vaan grins broadly, and drums his palms on the wood. 'It's been a while. Penelo sends her best.'
Nono looks away.
'Come on. Can't even share a drink, is that it?'
With a sigh, Nono shoos his friends. Ears flat, the three do not go far.
Nono rounds on Vaan. 'You've been looking for me for weeks, idiot, leaving a trail in every Moogle bar. And you didn't order a drink in any of them!'
'No need for that tone. We were friends once. Remember? Reckon you'd have the Brillante I out of Ordalia without my help?'
'Yes, ah! You owe me.'
'What do you want?'
'I'm a skypirate, Nono, in this day and age. What d'ya think I want?'
Nono nods, reluctant. 'Dusk tomorrow, behind the Ytanvillde. You know it?'
'Yep.' Vaan pats Nono on the back, enthusiastic. 'Thanks.'
Nono is disgruntled. 'Be discreet!'
At dusk, in an alley, a hooded Nono offers a roll of blueprints. 'It's the best I can do.'
Vaan turns the roll to read the titleblock.
'Their latest engineering release. You didn't get them from me, right?'
'As if I can trust Draklor—'
'It's all you're getting! No way can I risk giving you Moogle design.'
'Will it work?'
Nono looks down. 'No reason why not.'
'Tell me something else, how did the Moogles know this was going to happen? Your lot never stopped flying. You were prepared!'
'You were at Pharos. How could you not know?'
The glossair fails in bright fits and spurts. Draklor's secret Mist engineering does not compensate. The failure is in the Mist itself, not the mechanics.
As the ship tilts, Vaan stands calmly on the engineering deck.
At Pharos, Vaan witnessed the destruction of a shard, blind to the immense backlash of Mist. Bahamut had been there to absorb and use the Mist, delaying the end. When Bahamut went down, Ivalice again bore the unrestrained Mist-storm, with none to know what price to pay for their freedom from false gods.
The Galbana goes down with none but her crew to witness.
Continue to Chapter 3 →
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